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Progress, production in rural areas need new mindset

Update: September, 15/2014 - 10:44

Viet Nam's new rural development programme, scheduled for implementation from 2010 to 2020, aims to improve the economy and living standards of the country's rural areas. A developed rural infrastructure is expected to ensure long-term and sustainable growth to meets the requirements of industrialisation and modernisation in line with the national master plan.

Under the programme, the environment should be kept clean while the awareness levels of local residents should be improved and the cultural character must be preserved and upheld. The political competence and quality of officials at the grassroots level should also be strengthened.

The programme's 19 criteria include those relating to master planning, infrastructure, cultural facilities, labour structure, local earnings, and the organisation of production.

Phan Minh Nguyet, vice head of Ha Noi's agricultural department, spoke to Ha Noi Moi (New Ha Noi) Newspaper about a New Rural Model.

What is the importance of building a New Rural Model in Ha Noi ?

Agriculture and rural development has always played an important role in our country's development. We can only successfully implement modernisation and industrialisation in our country based on significantly improving our agriculture production. After we expanded the capital city's area, more than 57 per cent of it has become rural, and more than 62 per cent of its labourers are rural labourers.

Currently, Ha Noi is the leading city in the country, with 50 communes achieved the standards required to be recognised as New Rural Areas.

Why do we need to build a New Rural Model? What is the difference between this model and the previous rural model?

In my opinion, building the New Rural Model involves finding out what is out of date and what needs to be adjusted to fit the current context.

Building the New Rural Model means we have to make changes in terms of production materials. Previously, agricultural production was done on small scales. That model is no longer suitable with current trends. Building the New Rural Model does not mean we carry out urbanisation in rural areas but instead we seek ways to raise the living standards of people living in these areas.

The construction of new high buildings, new concrete roads, new markets or new sport complexes are important, but what must be done first and foremost is to change the agricultural production mindset and the production model.

At a recent conference to discuss the progress of building a New Rural Model, participants said some of the criteria set was not practical and needed adjustments. Some even said the criteria needed to be lowered so that more localities could meet the new rural model standard. What is your opinion?

As I have said, in many localities, the authorities are competing for the title, not the real quality. That's why many still want to lower the requirements so that they can be recognised as successful in building the model in their respective areas. In fact, they have misunderstood the goals of the programme.

Some conference participants said building a cultural centre or a market in every commune was not necessary and not effective all the time. They argued that the cultural center might not be used, or residents might not come to the market. What do you think?

Such criteria are necessary, I can assure you. However, the scale of each building must be based on the reality of each commune. A market is the place where people can buy and sell, and by building such a market, we can ensure that what people make can be sold and that people in the commune are not self-supplied. The size of the market should be based on a calculation of local characteristics and features. A modern market is, again, a must-have requirement for the New Rural Model.

The main goal of rural areas is to raise the living standards of residents. That must be confirmed and tested by specific factors such as the average income of a person and living conditions, including access to electricity, health care service and education. The difference between the new and the old rural model is the identification and insurance of residents' benefit, not the title that the commune is given.

How about difficulties in finance?

Previously, it is estimated that a commune would need VND250 to VND300 billion ($11.9 million - $14.3 million) to build the New Rural Model. Ha Noi has more advantages than other localities nationwide, but certainly the city government can't provide such a number. So what we need to be clear about is that we won't wait for the Government to provide its budget. If we do so, it's merely the title we're after.

As I have said, building the New Rural Model needs changes in production mindset, production methods and production model. And it's the local residents who have to implement these requirements themselves because they will be the direct beneficiaries of the new model.

But the efforts of local residents in many localities are not enough Let me talk about merging field plots to answer this question.

Previously, the country had 70 million field plots, and each rural family is assigned seven or eight of these plots. The plots may be in the same area, but they might also be in different areas. If the plots are scattered, how can production be developed on a large scale and be modernised?

If people want to merge the fields so that they can develop agriculture production at a larger scale, the Government needs to play its role by providing specific regulations to facilitate this process.

Ha Noi has implemented this policy rather well. More than 76 per cent of fields in the city have been merged for large-scale production.

After gathering the fields together, a general planning for the area is necessary. Scientific research is also needed so that people can know what will bring the best profit on the fields. The Government also needs to have supporting policies for farmers such as agricultural credit, agricultural insurance and trade promotion. Only then will farmers have the conditions needed to develop agricultural production.

Such conditions have not been fully created in our country. Is this the reason why farmers earn low profits even when they have a good harvest?

I think concerned parties have not co-ordinated well with each other, particularly the Government, enterprises, scientists and farmers. Farmers have not been able to make much profit from agricultural production, the quality of products is inconsistent, and consumption is unstable.

In order to tackle these problems, the Government needs to play its role well in regulating all relationships between enterprises, scientists and farmers.

For instance, while we have always said that agriculture must be one of the pillars of the economy, the number of enterprises investing in rural areas is very low, at less than 10 per cent.

It's obvious that enterprises and scientists have not seen anything attractive about doing business with rural areas. Farmers themselves can't deal with this. It must be the Government. — VNS

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